Child Training and Toddler Discipline: How to Change Behavior

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Are you frustrated because you’re not sure how to implement toddler discipline and child training? If you’re like me, you didn’t want to start too early, in fear of disciplining your child when they don’t understand what you’re asking from them.

However, I came to learn that my little guy understood much more than I was giving him credit for!

There I was, elbow deep in tantrums and behavior issues because I had never expected or taught my 2-year-old to do anything different than that!

I knew things had to change, starting with me and what I was doing. 

Before You Discipline: Teach

I use the terms “toddler discipline” but I don’t start disciplining with consequences at first. Starting I repetitively teach my son over and over again what I’m asking from him. 

I explain to him what I want, using pretty short directions. Then I take his hand and guide him by showing what I want.

Then, I give over-the-top-crazy-person praise. I’m clapping, smiling, hugging him, telling him he’s the greatest after I’ve helped him do what I’ve asked. And man does he get the biggest smile on his face! 

After I do this for several days, THEN I start with some sort of discipline when he doesn’t obey. 

3 Examples of this Method:

-Having my son come to me when I ask, instead of running away

-Teaching my son to slow down when I say “walk” instead of running

-Showing my son it is NOT okay to hit others 

I also answer my most Frequently Asked Questions Here

I will break down these behaviors using the terms “undesired behavior” which is the toddler behavior that is the problem.

Then, the “replacement behavior” is what we want to teach him to do instead.

Finally “teaching him to obey” is how we are teaching him to go from the undesired behavior to the replacement behavior. 

Teaching Him to Come to Us When Asked

Problem Behavior: Right now my toddler thinks it’s a game and so funny to run when I ask him to come over to me.

This happens when I want to change his clothes, change his diaper, etc. I’ll say “come here, let me change your shirt” and he will laugh and take off running around the house. I have had to chase him to finally get a hold of him. 

Replacement Behavior: We want him to walk over to us, instead of running away, when we say “come here”. 

Teaching Him to Obey: I don’t want this to come off like my toddler is a dog that needs to respond when I tell him to “come”.

Yes, I get annoyed when I constantly have to chase him to change his clothes, etc but this is also a BIG safety issue.

When we are in public and he takes off running, I’ll say “come here” and he takes off in the other direction. Now I’m not above having to put a kid leash on him.

However, I’d rather him learn to listen to us instead of always wearing my running shoes when we go somewhere like I am now.

Also, he does LOVE to be chased. It’s probably one of his favorite things to do…To run around and have me or my husband chase after him.

I’m not trying to take that from him completely. There are a time and place for that, and we still do that often. We are trying to teach him that when we say “come here” it is NOT the time where we are playing. 

So for the teaching part, my husband will take my son’s hand, and THEN say “come to Mama” and walk him over to me. Then, I over-the-top praise him, hug him, tell him what a good job he did and say “good job coming to Mama”.

I’ll do the same thing and walk him to my husband as well. Or I’ll reach across and pull him to me when he’s in arms reach by myself, doing the same thing with praise.

I’m not telling him to come to me until AFTER one of us has a hold of him because when he would hear “come to _____” he took that as his cue to run away and laugh. So we don’t say it until we have hold of him, just for the teaching/training part of it.

The goal is to do that repetitively over and over so he has an understanding of what we are asking of him. He gets such a big smile when we praise him and tell him he’s done a good job.

And even though we are physically guiding him to follow what we’ve asked, he still gets tons of praise as if he had done it on his own. 

After we have done this for a while and believe he has a good understanding of what we are asking, we will start saying “Come here” or “Come to Mama or Dada” without having hold of him first.

Then, we will start consistent discipline if he starts to run off again. We would discipline him, then repeat the teaching saying “Do not run. Come to Mama/Dada.” and then grab his hand and guide him to us again. 

*I will post some toddler discipline options at the bottom of this post, however, do what is best for your family and what you feel comfortable with.

Walk, Instead of Run:

Problem Behavior: My son RUNS everywhere. Usually he ends up falling and getting hurt after we’ve told him to “walk” and he kept running. 

Replacement Behavior: We give him plenty of time and space to run. We have a huge yard and take him outside whenever weather permits. However, when we tell him to “walk” we want him to slow down and stop running. 

Teaching Him to Obey: I have a VERYYYY active little boy. His favorite thing to do is RUN! He is fast too! The worst part is he isn’t very careful when he is running and falls! He has hit his head so many times that I’ve considered making him wear a helmet. 

There are a time and place for him to run as much as he wants, but sometimes he needs to know to slowwww down so he doesn’t get hurt.

We were saying “walk” and he just kept on running because we never taught him what that meant. 

To teach him what we were asking, I made a game out of it.

When we are outside, I’ll either hold his hand or hold him in my arms (just for a minute, because it’s exhausting) and I’ll say “run” and I’ll run with him. Okay, I’m speed walking because I’m not trying to get out of breath haha. Then, I’ll say “walk” and we slow down. 

He’s thought it is so funny. It’s kind of like that game where you say “freeze” and you’re supposed to stop. Instead, you’re saying “walk” and you have to slow down. He isn’t going to do this on his own at first, so I’m holding his hand or holding him while I do it.

I’ve even modeled it by myself when he’s in his high chair while he’s eating a snack. He’s strapped in and I know he’s watching, so I’ll say “run” and speed walk around our kitchen island. Then “walk” and I’ll slow down. It’s been a fun little game. 

Next, when he’s running and I want him to start to walk, I’ll say “walk” and take his shoulders or hand and slow him down. Then start praising him, “good job walking!”. 

So, we did the game for a while. Then I guided him by slowing him down. Finally, I’ll start some sort of discipline/consequence when I’ve asked him to walk and he doesn’t slow down. 

Use whatever consequence you’re comfortable with and works best for your family. 

Not Hitting Others

Problem Behavior: My son will get frustrated and hit others. 

Replacement Behavior: It is okay for him to be frustrated, but not okay to hit others. I’m okay with him crying when he’s upset because hey, I do it too sometimes. 

Right now he’s 2 and for his replacement behavior, I’m okay with him crying as long as he’s not hitting, stomping, throwing himself in the floor, etc. This will evolve as he gets older because I don’t always want that to be his go-to reaction. 

Teaching Him to Obey: Sometimes we see he’s about to hit and can grab his arm/hand before we get smacked. In that case, I’ll catch his arm and say “that is no, we do not hit”. Then I’ll take his hand and put it gently on my face or arm and say “be easy, we have to be gentle, we do not hit”.

When he hits me or someone else before I can interfere, I’ll say “that is no, we do not hit, you hurt _____”.

This sometimes escalates his behavior and leads to a tantrum. He was hitting because he was already upset about something, to begin with. In that case, I’ll remove him from the situation for him to calm down.

If we are at home, I’ll take him into his room. If we are in public, I’ll go outside or to a bathroom.

At this point, I’m trying to get him to calm down. I’m NOT giving him anything he wants. I will not turn on the TV or hand him a toy. Instead I’m going to hold him while he cries until he’s calm. 

Once he’s calm, I’ll put his hands gently on my arm or face saying “we do not hit, be easy, be gentle”. 

After we have done this for a while, I’ll start discipline and consequences when he hits others. At this point we have hopefully established that it is not acceptable to hit… even when he’s upset. 

Here are some of my most asked questions on Toddler Behavior: 

I mentioned that I have two other behaviors posts, and I have gotten several questions from these through comments and emails. See Below! 

How do you continue the consistent training and discipline when someone else is watching your children full time during the week? This includes a nanny, babysitter, daycare, etc. 

Or what if you and your husband aren’t on the same page with discipline?

My advice is to be as consistent as YOU can when you are with your child/children.

(Depending on the situation you could try to get the caregivers to support you in some areas. Like if they come to your house to watch your kids, letting the caregivers know if your child hits to tell them “we do not hit” and 2 minutes of time out, or whatever you do. I know Daycare is different and cannot be as flexible.)

Even though my husband and I came up with a plan together, I can still unfortunately be more relaxed than my husband is with discipline. I notice it when my son wants a snack before dinner, he will bring something to me to open and not my husband. He knows I’m more likely to give it to him than Dad.

He’s figured us out at 2 years old! So, I’ve still got a lot of growth to do with this as well, and not let bad behaviors go when I’m tired, etc. 

Although expectations and consequences might be different from person to person for your child, I think he or she will still benefit and learn from knowing “with mom, I can and cannot do this… or xyz will happen”.

What are the examples of appropriate consequences for a toddler? 

So, this is VERRRYYY controversial. Do what you are comfortable with. 

-a consequence that fits the crime. For example, if your child throws a tantrum while playing outside, then it’s time to go inside.
-time out or a cool-down spot for the number of minutes your child is old. 2-year-old = 2 minutes
-spanking, which is super controversial. If done, never out of anger and I would suggest using a spanking spoon (or something like that) and not your hand. Also, never hard enough to leave a mark.

*Many people don’t agree with time out or spanking. So these are just options ? Also, I know spanking is against the law in some places. I definitely wouldn’t suggest it if you live in one of those areas.  

How young can you start child training and discipline? 

I have several friends in my church community that started child training around 6 months. They started doing blanket time as soon as baby could crawl! (I explain what that is in this post)

I wish I had started much earlier than I did. Then the behaviors wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand by 2 years old. Remember to be patient, repetitive, and train with a joyful spirit. The first few days can be so frustrating for Mama at any age. Start small!

Book Suggestions on Child Training

I hope you find these child training and toddler discipline tips helpful! I am very much in the thick of this. We are slowly correcting a long list of problem behaviors that I ignored for a long time. 

My child may respond completely differently than yours! Below are 2 books that I recommend written by people who know much more than I do. 

Shepherding a Child's HeartShepherding a Child’s HeartShepherding a Child's Heart

 

Get free shipping on Shepherding a Child’s Heart using Amazon Prime! If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, sign up for a 30-day free trial here and get unlimited, free 2-day shipping with no minimum order size.

 

Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for ParentsParenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for ParentsParenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents

You can also get Parenting the Strong-Willed Child for free by signing up for a 30 day free trial with Audible! Just for trying Audible you get 2 free Audiobooks, and Parenting a Strong-Willed Child is a book you can choose from. Listen to the book anytime and anywhere! Great for listening in the car! 

I have 2 other posts about my family’s journey with correcting my toddler’s behaviors.

The first post I wrote was a list of the undesired toddler behaviors we were dealing with:

A list of Toddler Behaviors that aren't going away unless you teach your child how to obey. Identifying behaviors and making a plan! #toddler #toddlerdiscipline #baby

When Your Toddler’s Behavior is a Problem

The next post is about the methods I used to help train and correct my toddler on the first day I started child training and discipline!

The behaviors I chose to work on week 1 were throwing food on the floor, learning boundaries, and leaving the dishwasher/washer/dryer alone. 

Using Child Training and Discipline to Correct Toddler Behaviors: Where to Start and How to Make a Plan that is Best for Your Family #toddler #toddlerbehavior #toddlerdiscipline #baby

Toddler Discipline: Day 1

To my surprise, those posts have become pretty popular! I have received SO many great questions! I hope some of those are answered here! 

Also, check out some of my other blog posts:

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